She's Zero’s hero

She's Zero’s hero

Anushka Sharma is in a happy space today. With ‘Zero’ all set to hit the screens soon, she talks about all things filmi

She is the object of adoration of “Zero” — the character played by Shah Rukh Khan in the film of the same name. You could thus say that Anushka Sharma is Zero’s hero.

Playing an achiever who happens to suffer from cerebral palsy (CP) and is confined to a wheelchair, this is the latest in a decade of powerful, significant and different roles for the actor, who started her career in 2008 with the Yash Raj Films hit Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Things have come full circle for her, says Anushka, that she has her fourth film with SRK in the same month. What she may not have realised is that she’s also had a Yash Raj Films movie also this year — her last success, Sui Dhaaga — Made In India.

And for good measure, she has starred in the highest grosser of the year, Sanju, and in her home production Pari in a demonic avatar. Demon, author, a village housewife, and now a NASA scientist, for Anuskha, it is all in a day’s — no, make that a year’s — work!

“It excites me to reinvent myself with every film,” she says. “It so happens that this year is very high on demanding roles, and since 2017, it has been a physically exhausting time. But I like doing roles I know are difficult to do. They push me when the characters are not close to my personality, and there is a sense of accomplishment in doing them.”

Behind research

She goes on, “Like the girl in Sui Dhaaga barely talks, yet is so expressive. It was therefore tough not to be able to react the way I do. Or Pari, who was messed up in the head and half-demonic. Or this role, in which there were challenges of a completely different kind. In any case, I never did any film with nothing to contribute, or just to fill up my calendar and do a film for the heck of it. And today, I have reached that position where I do not have to do all that, or sign a film that just makes me look glam, I am glamorous anyway!” she says with a straight face.

So, what were the challenges in Zero, and what did she do to meet them?

“Most of the research was already done by Himanshu Sharma, who has written the film, and my director, Aanand L Rai,” replies the actor. “They had extensively met doctors and patients in their research and charted out a story and therefore made me understand the challenges I would have to face.”

Says Anushka, “My character is a brilliant professional and high achiever, despite being physically-challenged, and she had to be correctly represented. So I, on my part, took the right measures and met the right people to understand everything. I interacted with an occupational therapist and an audiologist for almost three months. The former would also be present at all time on the sets. Between takes, I would look into the monitor to see what I had done, remain in my wheelchair, and would be thinking about how it felt to be confined. I even ended up sometimes not talking to anyone.”

But the most difficult part of the role, she says, was replicating at will the involuntary spasms, over which CP patients have no control, in a credible manner. “And all this had to be done while also looking at the dialogues and the emotions of the scene I was doing,” she points out. “That was tough!”

Anushka is clear that while she always takes some time to mull over an offered film, she was finally excited to follow the director’s vision here. “I wanted to go on this larger-than-life journey,” she says simply. “This film is about life beyond challenges and how my character is undeterred by them. That is what is beautiful. Yes, I needed more takes in the earlier scenes, and Shah Rukh co-operated. And Aanand is someone who, besides being a sensitive filmmaker, is also very sensitive about his actors’ needs.”

She reminds us that the film is about challenged people going beyond their hurdles. “Like Katrina Kaif plays a top film star in this film. People will wonder, ‘What issues can she have?’ But that’s a perception. Seen or unseen, every one of us is challenged in some way. But, we have to celebrate life and go on.”

This is Anushka’s fourth film with Shah Rukh, and every one of them has a different kind of love story. Did they consciously discuss how to do each one of them, or especially this one?

It’s only love

“Each one depended on the director, not us,” she smiles in reply. “Ultimately, love stories, by and large, are the same. Two people are in love, and it is only the conflict and its depiction and complexities that differ. The pitching depends on our characters. We always had interesting characters.”

Having acted in two of Shah Rukh’s (Zero, Jab Harry Met Sejal) and Akshay Kumar’s (Patiala House) home productions, when is she going to work with a big star in her own productions?

She smiles gently. “I am not from a film family. My brother and I started out very early as producers, and I take some credit for what I have done. We planned to make different content and if we are working with Amazon and Netflix now. I may say that it speaks volumes for my reputation and ability as a viable production house. So a subject that needs a big hero may or may not happen.”

How does she look back at her first decade in cinema? “It’s been a good journey, a good life, and with good experiences. I am grateful for everything,” she answers.

And what is she doing next? “It has been a hectic two years. I was shooting until two days before my wedding and resumed the Sui Dhaaga schedule within a week of my wedding! The announcements will come when the time is right. But I am also busy with my own productions. Even if I am not acting in them, I have to look into almost everything.”